Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brownlow, Kansas

Brownlow, Kansas is a town which has never appeared on a map. 

The few references are confusing and contradictory. For instance, the Butler County Directories, 1878 Gazetteer and Business Director, R. L. Polk Company describes Brownlow as: “A settlement on Hickory creek, in the southeastern part of Butler county, 10 miles from El Dorado, the county seat and shipping point.” If accurate, this would suggest that the town was on a railroad, none of which existed in this area at the time. 

Then the obituary of Alexander Baker says he “came to Butler county in 1888 at the age of 17. The family settled on a 360 acre farm in the Brownlow community - halfway between Leon and Latham.” Further that Mr. Baker was a member “of the old Brownlow Methodist Church, the congregation of which later transferred to the Latham Methodist Church when the Brownlow church closed.” 

Detail of Butler County, Kansas map 1885

Perhaps the best designation of where Brownlow comes from is the school district designation – “23 Brownlow Leon Rt. 3.” This places the schoolhouse known as Brownlow, no. 23. At a location halfway between Leon and Latham as Mr. Baker’s obit suggests, but a few miles past the ten miles given in the Gazetteer. 

Where does the name Brownlow come from? 

Best guess is that the community was given the name by T.R. Purcell in nearby Walnut Township. Purcell, a Tennessee native, gave his service to the Union cause, enlisting in the First (Union) Tennessee Cavalry, under command of Colonel James P. Brownlow, and serving two years and nine months. Col. Brownlow is remembered for his crossing of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, Georgia on July 9, 1864. What made the event noteworthy was that the Northern soldiers who crossed the river and attacked the Confederate defenders on the south bank did so in the nude. 

The Brownlow village and community disappeared in time, but the cemetery remains. It can be found with the help of Google at 135 se and Hickory road to the south of Hickory Creek.

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